Updated: Jan 21
How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect parenting plans?
Generally, Montana Courts are taking the position that parenting plans, which are Court orders, are enforceable and should not be altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are fact specific exceptions, which will be considered by a Court, including if your parenting plan requires out-of-state travel or if a parent or child is at greater risk for exposure.
If you feel as though you or your child’s health may be at risk, making common sense agreements with your co-parent may be the best option. Situations that may warrant modification to an existing parenting plan may include:
a parent’s occupation in health services where they may have been exposed to the virus;
a member of one’s household is particularly vulnerable to the virus;
a guardian has tested positive for the virus;
distance between homes poses an unnecessary risk for exposure to the virus due to travel or would require quarantine as a result of that travel.
While these situations may warrant modification to an existing parenting plan, you may have concerns as you consider making these adjustments. For instance, how long the modification will last, and when will the normal schedule set out in the parenting plan resume?
If you are able to work with your co-parent to navigate modifications to your parenting plan during this time, consider taking steps to preserve your child(ren)’s relationship with the other parent by providing ample time to text, call, or video chat via FaceTime or Zoom. Ensure that your child(ren) know that the situation is temporary, and that changes to established parenting time are not permanent and are only for their safety. Also consider having your temporary agreement put in writing with the assistance of legal counsel to preserve its enforceability should a dispute later arise.
If you are concerned about these modifications, establishing grounds for a challenge to your parenting plan once the Stay-At-Home Order is lifted, or if you have any other concerns, contact your attorney as soon as possible.
**Remember, every family’s situation is unique and requires its own analysis. If you have questions or believe you have a legal problem, you should contact legal counsel for a thorough evaluation of your situation. This post is not designed to give you legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice.